1. isaac223

    isaac223 Senior Member

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    A Detective Suffering from Impostor Syndrome

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by isaac223, May 16, 2018.

    Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud". [...] Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.
    ~Blurb from Wikipedia article on Impostor Syndrome

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    I included below a general outline of the history and personality of the detective.

    Fairly standard for detective fiction, detective Ernis Blythe (my sleuth character) suffers from a form of high-functioning depression and impostor syndrome. Ernis Blythe (formerly Alvis Bower) worked as protege to world-famous independent homicide detective Ezra Hawkins. Though with great assistance from his mentor, Alvis had fronted a lot of the pair's cases, with even Hawkins publicly accrediting the bulk of their success to Bower. Though at first this served to motivate Bower, when mentor Hawkins had died in a last-ditch attempt to bring to light evidence related to a cold-case recently revived due to an at-the-least ostensibly related murder, Alvis hadn't taken the opportunity given to him by his teacher to solve the case, as the reality that the whole of his fame and success was thanks to and only to Ezra Hawkins, not his own investigative or deductive prowess; the feeling of motivation he felt from being regarded as a detective worthy of acclaim fleeted, and was replaced promptly with shame. Wanting to establish himself in the world of crime investigation anew, he had ditched the name "Alvis Bower", opting to work himself to the top from the ground up as up-and-coming rookie private investigator Ernis Blythe, so he could know that when he garnered esteem and distinction as a detective, it was because of his own personal ability, and not reliance upon a person he regards as superior.

    (for the sake of full coverage, further observation of his demeanor by investigative journalist and Ernis Blythe's appointed scrivener note that Ernis Blythe is perceptibly a dork and social pariah. With his flair for the melodramatic and his bold but seemingly happy-go-lucky personality, Ernis Blythe seems to any pair of eyes a simple, bumbling wannabe of a detective. However, with his ability to both exhibit a wit as quick as the lash of his uncharacteristically forked whip of a tongue and to stare down death and despair with a big goofy grin on his face as if he were seeing the crimes committed by broken men through the untainted eyes of a child, Ernis Blythe is, to his appointed scrivener and "parasleuth", nothing short of an enigma worth observing for raw social revelations alone.)

    I need to know if these are the kind of steps someone suffering with impostor syndrome would take in trying to amend their mental state, or to alleviate worries. I don't just want to play "the mental illness" card to make the story (and the character) darker; I want to respectfully and accurately represent the mental illness. Even if its not a central theme and serves primarily to add depth to a character, I don't wish to take massive liberties with something like this, and would want to portray Ernis Blythe as realistically as possible.

    What steps should I make to portray the complex better? Is this suitable? Are there any personality traits that possible conflict with his affliction?
     
  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    This doesn’t sound like what I think of as imposter syndrome. Do you have a source indicating that it usually involves abandoning, as opposed to just doubting, all of one’s accomplishments?
     
  3. isaac223

    isaac223 Senior Member

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    Well, no. Impostor syndrome is, in short, the doubt of one's own accomplishes, just like you said, and abandoning oneself is not explicitly a part of the complex. I was doubting if what Ernis Blythe did was a possible, albeit extreme, step one would take suffering from this complex, even if the complex itself doesn't explicitly imply that a person is bound to act like this.
     
  4. Bl4ck Catz

    Bl4ck Catz New Member

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    As someone who struggles with the symptoms of IS, it's heartening to see someone take it on as a character and Ernis seems genuinely interesting!

    I can't speak for detective work per se, but I can say that my IS manifests most clearly in three different ways:

    1. My nervous habits flare up before important 'prove it' moments like when I have a meeting or event the next day because a part of me is sure will finally unmask some hidden flaw that I have

    2. Sometimes severe procrastination developing new and innovative ideas that I'm pretty sure would work, but I'm afraid to try
    3. An uncomfortable amount of self-deprecation at inopportune times (I've gotten better at this though :) ) and an attempt to overuse humor and thousand dollar words in equal measure because there's a part of me that feels that I have to cover up something that's missing.

    I also think it might be helpful to seek out resources where people have openly shared some experiences with the syndrome to get some idea of how they've dealt with it. This is one that I found myself nodding along with pretty often:
    https://medium.com/kip-blog/real-stories-imposter-syndrome-15bce02a5c1e

    Good luck!
     
  5. isaac223

    isaac223 Senior Member

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    I am glad you think so! Hearing it from someone who can relate to the character means a lot to me; like I said before, I may not want it to be a central theme in the story, but its still an important part of the character and portraying it as respectfully and accurately as I can is my intent, so any perspective, especially one that is close to the character I want to write, is very helpful!

    I hope that me asking all these questions or rewording your statements doesn't come off as aggressive or me scrutinizing you or anything of the like. I only want to reach the utmost clarification on the issue.

    So, let's assume a person finds a great deal of comfort in the consumption of cold and sweet beverages for one reason or another and, as a consequence, whenever they feel nervous and need to settle themselves they'll drink a large quantity of cold, sweet beverages, and so if this person also suffers from Impostor Syndrome, this behavior will manifest itself most prevalent before situations in which they'll need to prove themselves, as if failure would discredit them as an individual and an achiever?

    A person who pursues creative or intuitive work, despite the want to work, would often hesitate to do so due to the fear of failure?
     
  6. Bl4ck Catz

    Bl4ck Catz New Member

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    No worries at all. I can only really give my experience of course, but I'd say that both of those examples are pretty accurate descriptions of the symptoms of IS for me. In terms of this example:

    I'd say that being discredited is one fear, but another is that I won't be found out through some alchemy of dumb luck and people giving me too much credit and that will just raise the stakes further. If I give into my IS, there are literally no good outcomes of standing out.

    But then a lot of how much I give into my fears and comforts to deal with IS have a lot to do with how healthy I've prepared myself to be.
     

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